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Facebook for Financial Advisors

Social media has become a powerful tool for capturing new clients and raising assets, and many broker-dealers are encouraging their advisors to use the online communities. But is it right for you?

For many advisors, the answer is yes, but not without caveats. Research by consulting firm FTI Consulting and social media company LinkedIn finds that among advisors capturing new clients through the LinkedIn platform, one third have raised more than $1 million in assets and 12% have captured $5 million or more.

Social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and Linkedin, among other platforms, can help advisors distribute content about asset management, the economy, or other financial planning topics to targeted clients. By posting compelling, relevant content on you or your firm’s social media, advisors can better position themselves as subject matter experts, which may help in attracting new clients.

As an example, an advisor’s social media connection may announce the birth of a child. The advisor could then offer to help the individual with tuition planning, life insurance or other challenges typically faced by new parents.

Even though social media is promising, it isn’t a silver bullet.  If anything, it can be a high stakes game as mistakes—such as inappropriately worded commentaries—can be widely distributed and be highly visible.

Creating a successful social media presence, moreover, is a substantial commitment. While it can help improve advisors’ visibility among potential clients, it won’t correct marketing weaknesses that may exist, such as poorly defined sales strategies. Indeed, firms that are the most successful with social media typically have strong marketing programs in place when joining the interactive web community.  This underscored that social media is a marketing tool, not a marketing plan.

With that in mind, advisors who are evaluating if they should start a social media initiative should first review their marketing programs and ensure that they have well-defined strategies. They should determine their firm’s strengths, characteristics that set them apart from the competition and ways in which they can deliver value to clients.

By being equipped with answers to those questions, advisors will be more likely to forge a social media presence that clearly conveys their firms’ strengths and expertise while targeting appropriate prospects.

Advisors also need to assess if they can generate high-quality content that can captivate readers and keep social network members engaged. Without top notch content, advisors run the risk of turning off clients by making what sound like self-promoting, boastful statements rather than providing useful, thoughtful commentaries that can illustrate a firm’s expertise and a commitment to clients.

Sufficient compliance capabilities for social media are also a must for advisors in the highly regulated financial services industry. It is important for advisors to establish and follow social media guidelines.

Early last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a National Examination Risk Alert that highlights common deficiencies that inspectors have found with advisors’ compliance of interactive websites. FINRA has also taken note and has determined that most social media content will be regulated as advertising. Regulators, furthermore, require advisors to keep backup copies of certain social media content. With the complex nature of regulations, advisors should evaluate the level of home office compliance support that is available.

Lastly, advisors should develop guidelines for their online marketing programs that include policies for responding to inquiries, comments posted in response to your social media posts, and for updating content.

As social media has grown, its complexity has increased. In learning more about social media, advisors may want to read the Social Media Handbook for Financial Advisors: How to Use LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to Build and Grow Your Business by Matthew Halloran.

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Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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